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HAI President Matt Zuccaro to address HEMS safety at upcoming NTSB Public Hearing

3rd February 2009 - 12:30 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will hold a four-day public hearing on the Safety of Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) operations beginning on Tuesday, February 3, 2009, at 9:00 a.m., and will continue through Friday, February 6. The hearings are open to public observation, but will not be open to participation from the general public.

The goal of the upcoming hearing is for the Safety Board to learn more about helicopter EMS operations, in order to better evaluate the factors that contribute to accidents. The Board will hear from numerous witnesses who will deal with all elements of HEMS operations.

The format of the hearing will involve the questioning of several panels. Helicopter Association International (HAI) President, Matt Zuccaro, who is also Co-Chair of the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST), is one of three keynote witnesses who open the hearing with individual presentations. He will provide an overview of current and future industry safety initiatives, as well as a list of issues and action items for consideration by the NTSB.

Zuccaro was instrumental in the recent rewrite of the HEMS A021/A050 Op Specs by facilitating a consensus among HEMS industry leaders and regulators. Zuccaro, accompanied by other HAI staff will also participate in the full four days of the hearing as a "designated party". As such HAI will be participating in the questioning of the various witness panels scheduled to appear at the hearing. The witnesses and designated parties will represent a wide range of EMS-related communities, including Associations such as HAI, pilots, medical personnel, HEMS operators, and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials who provide oversight.

In his presentation Zuccaro will address such HEMS issues and recommendations as mandatory use of night vision goggles, an all IFR operating environment, elimination of launch / response times, study of fatigue factors in HEMS, promotion of risk aversion not risk exposure, client education programs, appropriate application of technology, non-punitive safety reporting environments, and implementation of Safety Management Systems. The need to aggressively focus on human factors issues will be highlighted, to include a recommendation that HEMS risk assessment and decision making should be the same as other mission protocols.

Also to be discussed, the need to provide a sterile operating environment for pilots and technicians, absent of undo pressures, so that any considerations are limited to safe aeronautical decision making.

HAI is committed to "Safety First, Above all else" and has sponsored numerous forums and workshops with the NTSB and FAA, actively working to improve HEMS helicopter safety.

The hearing will take place in the Board Room and Conference Center, at 429 L'Enfant Plaza, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20594. The NTSB Conference Center is the primary location for the National Transportation Safety Board's Board meetings, public hearings, training, public forums, symposiums, and other events. This hearing will also be telecast live on the NTSB Web site (www.ntsb.gov).

 

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